The International Writers Magazine: Conversations in the Dark
Marge and John have returned from a night in the city where they have just attended a play, written by their only daughter and produced by a very famous director who had convinced their daughter, a nascent playwright, to let him be the one to make all the necessary arrangements for its first showing on Broadway. After the play, the husband and wife had joined the producer and other members of the cast to dinner at a posh, sophisticated restaurant, where the wine always matches the meal.
Their bedroom is semi-dark. The light from a single Tiffany lamp bathes the room with an amber hue that gives a warm feeling to everything it touches. Two shadows move lazily across the carpeted floor and stand near the king size bed which takes up a large section of the bedroom. Slowly they undress in a very unsexy manner, as if shedding a very heavy protective armature. John sits slowly on the edge of the king size bed to unlace his shoes, while Marge stands with her back to John and watches herself going through the motions reflected in a large mirror. She reaches behind her neck with both hands and lowers her head as if bowing to her reflection; unlatches the clasp on the beautiful pearl necklace that John had gifted her for their twenty-fifth anniversary, and places it in its velvet case. Marge glances over to watch John’s silhouette washing, brushing, and gurgling; every sound, every move, every unsexy aspect of the situation comforts to her. Soon, John and Marge lay staring at the ceiling of their comfortable bedroom. They lay in silence at their respective side of the King size bed:
Marge- It’s barbaric I tell you!
John- What is?
Marge- What they did with her story. I wanted to mention it to you at dinner but you were too involved with your meal.
John-It was a relaxing dinner.
Marge- I know, but, you have this habit of not paying attention to what I say. It was dreadful what they did to her story... did not sit well with me at all, still doesn’t.
John- I know you accuse me of not paying attention to you and all, but I have to mention this; and I hope you don’t get mad, it’s two-in-the-morning! for heaven’s sake, tomorrow is a workday, we should get some sleep.
Marge-There you go again! You just don’t want to have a conversation with me.
John- That’s not true! It’s just that you want to talk at the oddest times. Remember last week, in the middle of a that show, in the City? you brought up something about the ideal candidate for Governor, and the elections, marked with your political views; when all I wanted to do was decompress and watch that show;which I didn’t care for, matter of fact . Yet I sat through it despite the show’s predictability, because I really wanted to spend quality time with you.
Marge- It wasn’t the Governor’s race.
Marge- It wasn’t the Governor’s race I was talking about. I was talking about the minor candidates, the ones who run for official spots and never keep their promises. Those who expect their constituents to vote for them, then once they get into office they ignore their campaign promises, make deals with their cronies, and line their pockets with their constituent’s money. Then! then!, then! I tell you...
John- Please, please, stop. You’re doing it again.
Marge- Well, you brought it up! I just wanted to clear the record; make sure you had it straight, you know. This is a perfect example of what I was just saying, that you never pay attention to the things I say. You pretend to listen but don’t hear a word I say. Your mind just wanders-off as soon as I start a sentence. Where does your mind go when I start talking? Is it a special place? are there women there? or is it just “elevator music” playing up there?
John- Thank you! Thank you, Margaret, I‘d not heard the “elevator music” comment since.... Well... I’m sorry.
Marge- I don’t know what goes on in that head of yours.
John- It is two-ay-em, I have to get some sleep. Can we talk about these things at a decent hour, when both our heads are clear? I must tell you, after a meal with two after-dinner-drinks, my mind is not...
Marge- What? alert? lucid? When is your mind alert?
John- Well, not at this hour!
Marge- Not at any hour if you’d ask me!
John- (Sighing) Please Marge, I’m just trying to get some sleep. Can we just let it be? I need to get up early tomorrow; if I don’t sleep soon, my Monday will turn out to be another one of those ugly beginning-of-the-week days.
Marge- Did you remember to turn off the water-valves that go to the hoses? It’s going to be in the teens, and we don’t want the pipes to freeze.
John- Are you serious?
Marge- Yes I am serious! the pipes will freeze!
John- Is this really going on in your head at this hour?
Marge- Yes, you know what would happen if the pipes freeze!
John- I’ll do it in the morning. Please let’s go to sleep.
Marge- Fine, you want me to remind you tomorrow? I know you’ll forget.
John- Sure, fine, do that!
Marge- It’s barbaric I tell you; what they did to the story. Its structure. They threw its originality out the window. How could they have butchered it like that? These bastards call themselves professionals! Just like that, they take something precious and turn it into fecal matter!
John- It wasn’t so bad.
Marge- Not so bad? Were you not paying attention? Not bad? It was horrible! What they did to her story, to her characters; and that ending? what the hell were they thinking? The ending was perfect the way she had written it. Idiots! That facile ending turned the entire story into a piece of crap.
John- (Thinking) I wish they had asked you, then this will not be happening now.
Marge- I mean the idea! a sophisticated story with great potential, with great characters, turned into crap! Unsettling!
John- Margaret for God’s sake! It’s two-o’clock-in-the-morning, can’t this wait?
Marge- Sure, sure... you have no sensibilities whatsoever. You can lay there and let you skull go numb for hours, without feeling anything about anything... you just let everything slide off you... I’m shocked!
John- Marge, you have to understand where I’m coming from. I do feel... I mean, I am sensitive, God knows I’ve become sensitive under your tutelage; but remember, this brain has to be alive tomorrow, I have to deal with people, difficult situations at work, you know? So, why not just call it sleep?
Marge- (Brooding) Your idea of sensitivity is ignoring all my feelings and emotions. I’ve said it before. You can turn your brain on-and-off at will! Well, I can’t. I don’t. My mind is not built like yours, I suppose. I have sensibilities. I think about things. Situations revolve in my head and they need resolution, or I can’t rest. Perhaps you’re not capable of understanding my situation.
John- Margaret, we’ve been married for over twenty-five-years, we’ve done this every night for over twenty of those years; you have not changed, I will not change, why continue to behave like we’re newly weds trying to adjust to each other’s idiosyncrasies? I’m tired, I want to sleep. I say this with complete absence of malice: drop it and let’s go to sleep.
Marge- How can you lay there and say that to me? And then, inject that pretentious little clause: “complete absence of malice” it’s not original you know, you didn’t just think of it, it’s from that awful film you love. That’s the difference between me and you: you like those horribly contrived movies, and I like the more sophisticated and complicated works of literary fiction. I sensed it the first time I met you.
John- (rolling his eyes, sighing) Margaret, I know this will sound rather patronizing, but, I know you’re smart, and sensible, and you’re far, far, better educated than I am. I know your goals are loftier than mine; I know this, but I’ll say it again, it has nothing to do with you, who you are, what you believe in, I just want to sleep, that’s all, I’m tired, and I don’t really want to drag this conversation for much longer. Let’s just get some sleep.
Marge- Sleep! How can you sleep now when we’re having a fight.
John- Fight? Marge! for heaven’s sake!
Marge- Yes, that’s it, just go ahead and tell me what to do. You do that so well, you’ve always done it to me. You tell me what to do, when to do it, and why! You don’t have any respect for the way I feel, or the way I am, or what I like. You’re always forcing me to give up my things, my feelings, always!
John- (whispering to self) I can’t believe this is happening.
Marge- (weeping) I knew it, all the time, I knew it! I felt it in my gut, but never wanted to accept it!
John- Marge, please!
Marge- (weeping) You never loved me the way you loved her. She was all you cared about, from the start!
John- What are you saying? What are you talking about?!
Marge- (sobbing) You know what I’m talking about!
John- No! I do not!
Marge- (sobbing) yes you do! You know very well what I’m talking about! She was everything to you, all you cared about. The moment she was born you devoted all your love and attention to her, and you forgot about my feelings. I became a shadow, a nobody. I was there only because you felt I was part of the clan, not because I was part of you. Why? because SHE was your whole world, and SHE became your everything, your reason for being.
John- Margaret, why are you saying these things?!
Marge- Sure, act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, sure, be a bystander...
John- Margaret, why are you saying these horrible things?
Marge- You know very well! You knew it all along, but you never were man enough to bring them up. You know it! You coward! You didn’t have the guts to walk away...
John- Margaret! I’ve never felt that way, and you know it. You’r mind is just too obsessed with irrelevant minutiae that take over your mind, Marge. You can’t just dream up scenarios to make yourself feel the way you want to feel... Please stop thinking so much and let’s get some sleep. We’ll have a chat in the morning... actually, it’s almost morning.
Marge- (weeping) I’m sorry, I know you mean well, but I... I just...
John- Margaret, Marge, please, don’t.. don’t torture yourself like that. You know I love you. I’ve always loved you. You know that, don’t you? (holding her hand) I do know how you feel. I wish we had not gone to that darn play. I wish I’d known better than to take you there, it was too soon, to soon. Please Marge, please forgive me. I just wanted to share.. well, I just thought that it might have been... well, I don’t know (weeping) I miss her too. I miss her like you do, and I wish she was here with us. I know how hard it is for you, I know.. I’m sorry... They did butcher her work. It was horrible what
they did to her words, to her wonderful play. Bastards! I know how you felt about it,
when we left the theatre. I didn’t want to say a word, because I didn’t want to upset
you. But you were already upset, I thought a relaxing dinner would get things off your
mind and... get HER off your mind. I am sorry...
Marge- (Sobbing) I miss her so...
John- I know Marge, (sobbing) I do too..
Marge- It’s barbaric what they did to her play..
John- Yes, I know.. it was horrible. She would not have liked it.
Marge- I’m sure she wouldn’t have taken their money had she not...
John- Shhh.. yes, I know.. all that pain, all those useless treatments...
Marge- I’m so angry at the world...
John- I know, Marge, I know, but.. she’ll live forever in her work, and in our hearts...
Marge- NOT if they continue to butcher her stuff like they did tonight!
John- I know, I know...
Marge- (sighing) I hate them.. I miss her so much...
John- Me too.. Marge, me too..
Marge- Are you asleep? John? you sleeping?
Marge- Why? ..that’s all I want to know. Why? Parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children; it isn’t fair John, it’s just not fair!
John- (sighing) don’t think about this anymore Marge, it’ll kill you.
Marge- how can I not? Remember the time....
John- Marge, please don’t ... don’t do this to yourself, to us, not now. Let’s just try to clear our minds and let the silence take over. It’s all we can do now, at this hour. Get some sleep and we’ll chat in the morning, perhaps I can take a personal day, not go to work and we can spend the day with each other, we can then try to make sense of things, but now let’s try to sleep. Try to clear you mind.
Marge- Do you mean it John? Will you stay home tomorrow? I know how you feel about that. I mean, you know what I mean: you’re so devoted to that place, as if there was no one else there that could do what you do, in your absence.
John- Yes, I mean it. I’ll call in the morning, but now let’s get some sleep, right?
Marge- I’ll try...
John- Thank you Marge, good night.
(Muffled sounds of deep sorrowful sighs)
John- Margaret, Marge..?
Marge- I’m sorry (weeping) John.. I can’t stop thinking about her, I miss her so much.
John- Oh Marge, please don’t torture yourself.
Marge- (whimpering) I know, I know, but I feel this weight on my mind, on my chest on my soul, it won’t let me breath. I can’t stop thinking about how this isn’t fair, just not fair..
John- (reaching in the dark to wipe tears from her face) It is not about fairness Marge. It is life. We are not given any assurances when we are born; when we first cry the cry of the newborn, we accept whatever fate is given us. We were so very lucky to have had her for so long; to have been given the opportunity to see her grow. From the instant she cried at the sight of the world, to the moment when stillness enveloped her soul. We were part of her life, she was part of ours. She was our light; our warmth; our cup of love. It’s not up to us to decide, Marge, It is life. It is the unknown. And it is our love for her that survives...
Marge- Remember the time, John, when you... She was so very perceptive. Remember the time you were dancing with her in the living room, she must have been a few months old, and you were spinning her around, holding her little hand while doing a Waltz? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOcryGEw1NY softly in background) Her curls bouncing off her little head, and her eyes... those sincere and expressive eyes, looking at you with the love only an infant can feel... That memory is etched in my mind (weeping)...
John- Yes, I remember... (embracing her and stroking her hair) Marge, do you suppose there is a God? I mean, we never.. I chose to never become involved with religion, you know, I gave you my reasons, and you never question them. Do you suppose we should have... well, do you think I was wrong to exclude God from our lives? from her life? Do you suppose this is the price we now pay? Is He or She a vengeful God? am I being too cynical about this? is there a God?
Marge- I don’t know if it’s a fair question to ask now, John. I think we have no basis for reproaching ourselves for not... for not knowing how to...
John- Perhaps I should have listened to my heart. I fear that we are paying for it now...
Marge- All I know is that I am angry at the world, and angry at the fact that our child’s life was usurped from us before we were ready to let go; before she had an opportunity to discover what life is about; despite her strength and convictions, despite her brilliance and compassion, despite her devotion to humanity, her life was cut short, too short.
John- Since she passed, Marge, all I see is darkness, even when the sun is shining bright. I see only darkness. I watch people walking the streets carrying on with their daily lives; feeling the sun on their faces, laughing, unaware that the world is exploding under their feet, that the very essence of life is being sucked out of the very marrow of of their bones... I only see darkness. I feel empty. I feel an emptiness in my heart that... I know, I know: I have you, and love you; and we have our lives. But I can’t help feeling this numbing emptiness in my heart.. I’m sorry I can’t be of comfort, Marge. I feel I’m responsible for all this pain your feeling now. I feel it is my fault. I touched the wound before it healed. I’m sorry.
Marge- It’s not your fault John, you know that. I, too, want to face the fact that she’s gone. I guess, I too, feel that by confronting her absence, accepting the fact that it happened, things would get back to normal for us. Normal, as normal as our lives can be now, without her. I’m not strong enough, though. I’m not ready. My mind feels ready but my heart is not. I still feel it. Her absence is too close to my heart for me to face it.
I know it now... I miss her so...
John- We are not ready to face it... are we Marge?
Marge- I’m not!.. I guess, we are not.
John- We’ll we ever?
Marge- I can’t help but think that the wound is too deep.
John- I know Marge, I feel the same way. My pragmatist mind begs me to move on. Yet,
I am frozen in my fear. You’re right, Marge, I am a coward. I need you to help me
Marge- Do you hear that John?
John- What is it...?
Marge- Just listen. Be quiet and listen.
John- I don’t hear anything.
Marge- Don’t make a sound and listen... do you hear it?
Marge- Tell me, what do you hear John?
John- I hear your voice, Marge.
Marge- Can you hear the beating of a heart?
John- I hear the beating of a heart, yes. I hear the beating of my heart.
Marge- Now, listen carefully. Do you hear the silence? ...Hear it?
John- Yes, yes... I heart it. It’s deafening!
Overture: ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsAZ526EC60 softly in background)
The curtain falls.
© Oswaldo Jimenez November 2012
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